Thursday, January 30, 2014

Kate's Winter Wonderland Tea Party

Tuesday was Kate's fifth birthday. She's smart, tall, creative, and SOOO ready for kindergarten, which I can't believe begins later this year! Matt and I were actually out of town on her birthday, but since Kate firmly believes that it is blowing out one's candles that makes one magically turn a new age, it was her party on Saturday that really mattered.

I tried something different this year, after three years of parties where we invited whole families and everyone mingled while the kids played. This year, I thought we'd try a kids-only party (mommies optional) with a "Winter Wonderland Tea Party" around the dining room table.
We invited just four friends, since our dining room has six chairs (four guests, plus the birthday girl and her sister) and I planned activities to keep six little girls ages 2-6 occupied for two hours. After coordinating VBS last year, I was well aware how time is harder to fill than you think and how groups of kids so easily dissolve into chaos!

There were definitely moments of chaos, but overall, I thought it was really fun and special (partially because of the chaos, I'm sure, if you ask Kate!) I'm so excited to share it with you.

First, the Theme and Decor
To me, January equals light blue as much as February equals red and March equals green. So I was eager to deck the halls with light blue, silver, and white, and to take advantage of after-Christmas sales to find lots of snowflake-themed stuff. (The Mom Creative would approve: check out her post on party planning in advance.) I went to Michael's the day after Christmas and found snowflake ornaments, ribbon, and cupcake liners, plus silver doilies and netting, at 50-70% off. I later found snowman chocolates and snowflake-themed paper plates and napkins on clearance, too.

I decorated the table with the netting, ribbon, ornaments, doilies, and snowmen, plus some crystals (the type that would go in a vase) that I found at church, leftover from a wedding held seven months ago.

I hung ribbon and ornaments from the light fixture (above) and made a banner for the mantle with extra ribbon, doilies, and some scrapbook paper (below). One benefit of centering the party around a table was less pressure to decorate the whole downstairs!

The Food

There was tea, of course, this being a "tea party," but I suspected the kids would not all care for tea, so we also had lemonade and apple juice. My mother-in-law collects tea pots, so she had a big selection of blue and silver ones from which to choose.
The party began at noon, so I had lunch food for the kiddos. I plated their grapes, cheese, and crackers, and then carried around the tray of tea sandwiches for them to choose. I made egg salad and pimento cheese sandwiches, cut into little triangles. (As Kate said, "I don't want tea in my sandwich!") For the record, the kids hardly ate anything. They were too busy being silly around the table, thrilled by the idea of a kids-only meal.

I had the same food and a selection of teas laid out for the mommies in the kitchen to snack on. One mommy was out of town and another had to work, but the two that were there and Kate's grandmothers hung out in the kitchen while the kids ran in to tattle ("Claire poured her own tea!...well, so did I") and stampeded through when Kate said she had to go potty and all the other girls agreed, cramming themselves into our half-bath!

In place of a big cake or cupcakes, we had petit fours (ordered from Publix—delicious!) and snowflake cookies my mom made.

I let the kids play as everyone arrived, and then called them to the table, served the "tea" and lunch. After they finished (or, rather, claimed they were finished eating) I brought out supplies for a beaded snowflake craft, prepared and plated for each child so we wouldn't have to be passing out each individual item.

Pointing out the sample I'd made, I gave a brief how-to, and the moms and grandmas helped the kids as needed. Not requiring any glue or scissors, they simply twisted sparkly pipe cleaners together, threaded pony beads along them, and folded the ends over!

 Before we sang "happy birthday" and passed out petit fours, I gave each child a dessert plate with marshmallows, pretzel sticks, a sliver of carrot, and various candies, with which to make a snowman (and eat him, as desired, alongside their petit fours and cookies).

After cake and presents, the kids got up from the table for a little game (followed by open playtime until parents arrived). I cut holes in a tri-fold presentation board and had cotton balls in a bucket for the kids to toss through the holes. (Kate helped draw snowflakes on the board,  but the Exact-O knife was all Mommy.)

It was a fun little party for my big birthday girl. We let the men back in the house for a family party that evening with pizza, ice cream, and her big gift from all the grandparents—a balance beam and mat to improve her gymnastics skills!

Happy birthday, K-bear!

Friday, January 24, 2014


January always feels like such a "clean" month. I'm not sure that's the word I'm really looking for, but there's that feeling after you pack up all the Christmas stuff and get back into your routine, plus the bare trees and (depending on where you live) a smooth, white blanket of snow may cover the ground.

Our schedule has been a little wild this month, as I've been traveling the past couple weeks for work, and will head out again next week for a conference. The good news is that the big girls went with me the first week and Matt is going with me this next week, so only this past week did I feel like I was abandoning my family. Matt is such an awesome dad, though, and doesn't blink at caring for all the girlies himself for a few days.

We've been doing a lot of puzzles this month. The girls got a few new ones for Christmas, and I decided to introduce Claire to 24-piece jigsaw puzzles that say "age 3+." She's been doing pretty well for a 2 1/4 year old! (I guess I haven't taken pics of that, though, as these two puzzle pics are both age-appropriate with letters and colors.  

Despite the polar vortex and this past week's cold snap, there have been a couple warm days in there. We had a friend over one Sunday afternoon, and they played outside for a while without jackets!

Claire did wear a jacket, and while she may look cold in this picture, it's really her "I scared!" face, as Kate and her friend were exploring the "fort" inside a clump of evergreen trees and imagining scary things under there! (She's carrying her tool kit I got her for Christmas--she likes to carry it around more than actually open and play with it!)
I was in mama heaven watching them out the window while doing dishes at the kitchen sink. I mean, more heavenly would have been not having dirty dishes to do, but I was filled with love for our house that affords such a nice view of the yard so I can keep an eye on the kids while cleaning up!

Quick updates on the kiddos, rowdy as ever: 

BGC got ear tubes last week to hopefully prevent all her drainage and infections, plus they wanted to do a more invasive hearing test while she was under anaesthesia. She'd failed every other hearing test she'd had, and this test confirmed that she has severe hearing loss, so she'll be getting fitted for hearing aids soon. She's making amazing progress, though, getting close to sitting up unassisted and maybe even creeping. She's getting quite adept at rolling where she wants to go, and is finally accepting a soft-spouted sippy instead of a bottle. Yay!
Clairy-Bear is two-and-a-quarter, still such a ham. She loves sunglasses and peanut butter, so I love this photo of her in her heaven! And I love that toothy grin!

And Kate! Kate will be FIVE next week! Her party is tomorrow, and--fitting for her January birthday--we're having a "Winter Wonderland Tea Party." The table and mantle are decked out in silver, white, and light blue. We've got petit fours on order and fun activities planned. Can't wait to tell you all about it, but here is a little sneak peek!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Crazy Fits

Claire has been screaming "BEANS!!" over and over again, with varying degrees of despair and tears, for going on a half hour now. I say, "with your dinner, Claire," as I hurry to fix pasta primavera for the rest of the family. Occasionally, she says, "okay," and is quiet for maybe four seconds before starting in again. "BEANS!!!" The girl loves baked beans.

Which got me thinking: what is the strangest thing your kids have ever thrown a fit about?

For us, beans are definitely not it. Not even just looking at today.

This morning, at about 4:45, Kate came into our room sobbing because a ribbon she'd tied around her ankle in a dozen crazy knots (presumably before falling asleep last night) wouldn't come off. So, I fumbled around in the dark to unknot the ribbon so she could go back to sleep.

Not sure that one takes the cake. (I'm inclined to say no, since it was bizarre but easily resolved, but I can't think of any more right now.

What's the craziest fit your kids have ever thrown?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

12 Pics of Christmas

The Christmas season has been gone as long as it was here, so I guess it's about time I share some of the photos and activities of our family's celebrations. I'm limiting myself to twelve photos, though, so here are the essentials:

The Sunday before Christmas, which also happened to be Matt's parents' 40th anniversary, we took them to lunch and then went back to their house to open presents (since Christmas Eve was going to be so busy!) I typically do something memory-oriented for the girls' gifts to their grandparents—handprint mugs, a photo calendar, etc. This year, I made "memory keeper" boxes on for the grandparents to keep cards, photos, and artwork from the grandkids.

 Christmas Eve, as expected, was jam packed, starting with our noon service at church, done in the style of our Sunday evening casual service, The Road. We offered kid activities so little ones could stay in the service. I printed manger coloring sheets (outline of the stable and star) for kids to color and add their nativity scene. And so the kids could have "candles" for the singing of Silent Night, I had supplies to help them wrap a glow stick in white paper and add an orange tissue "flame."

After that service, we went over to Granna and Opa's again for a light mid-afternoon meal and visiting with Matt's aunt and uncle, who were there as well. Love this pic of my girlies in their Christmas finery.

And this one of the whole family, including BGC. Kate determined that anyone not wearing red on Christmas Eve was on Santa's naughty list. Sadly, this meant that the only one on the naughty list was Uncle Gary, whose birthday we were also celebrating. What a way to treat the birthday boy, Kate! (Maybe Gary feels like I did on my sweet sixteen, when I decided on a pink theme instead of the usual red, white, and blue for my July 4th birthday!)

From there we went to a nearby nursing home where both of Matt's grandmothers reside, to visit with them a bit. They are both quite elderly and can't get out to join family celebrations elsewhere. I always think about how, when Matt and I got engaged, we both had three living grandparents. Then I lost one a few months before our wedding, and the other two just months apart in 2010. Matt still had his three until his grandfather died on our anniversary this past October. It was good to see the grandmothers this Christmas.

Then, it was back to church for the evening Christmas Eve service. Since the day had been so crazy and I'd had the girls to wrangle during the noon service, I cherished the opportunity to sit and celebrate the Incarnation with some presence of mind. Then we headed home to read "The Night Before Christmas" and set out milk and cookies!

We enjoyed Christmas morning with just our nuclear family, opening stockings and gifts, eating our traditional egg casserole and singing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus. (And by nuclear, I do mean nuclear, as BGC is a super-late sleeper and missed the morning festivities!) We got a Kindle Fire for the family.

After BGC got up, she got her own little present party, with gifts both from us and from an "angel tree" sort of volunteer gift giver DCS recruits. Kate and Claire loved helping BGC with her presents. We saved some for her to open when my parents arrived later, but then she was napping, so she missed it and had another private present party!

After getting dressed (the kids all in new outfits they'd been gifted) we went to the hospital to visit a church member. We hated that he had to spend Christmas in a hospital bed, and felt bad for the nurses that had to work, so we picked up doughnuts on the way to spread some cheer!

When we returned in the early afternoon, my parents arrived for their visit! We opened more presents, hung out and played, and enjoyed a nice dinner.

My parents stayed a few days, during which we saw a movie ("Saving Mr. Banks"—so good!), ate out, visited the Frist art museum's Norman Rockwell exhibit (and hands-on kid area, which Claire is enjoying in the pic below), and ice skating! 

Popi entertained the little girls on the bleachers while Matt, Mom, Kate, and I skated. The girls went back to my parents' condo with them for a sleepover that night, and I enjoyed a lot of scrapbooking time on our child-free morning!

I was determined to make sure the Christmas fun didn't stop with the 25th or with grandparent visits. For one example, "after Christmas" sales at Michael's made possible some fun Christmas crafts on the cheap!

So that was our Christmas. Whew! I'm glad I didn't decide to blog 25 pics of Christmas. I noticed that this is blog post #901 on The Parsonage Family, so maybe—despite my blog-aversion of late—I can resolve to hit the big 1000 this year! Hope your 2014 is off to a good start.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Year's by the Numbers

Building on a Facebook status my husband posted, here are our New Year's Day stats for the Kelley house:

Times Claire made it to the potty on her first day of training: 0

(Worse, she didn't really care that her panties were wet, so if we didn't notice when she'd gone, she'd just hang out in wet panties for a while!)

Kinds of meat my hubby slow smoked and we all devoured: 4

(A rack of ribs, a beef roast, a chicken, and salmon for his pescatarian mom. I should add that he then boiled a chicken carcass for four hours to make stock for some future recipe. He rocks.)

Sound of Music viewings: 2 

(Though, to be honest, it's very hard to calculate, because Kate jumps around, watching her favorite scenes numerous times and never actually finishing the film.)
Black eyes Kate gave herself doing gymnastics: 1

(Seriously. After about 25 leaps from the couch onto her new bean bag chair, her knee got in the way of her landing, and she now has a purple shiner under her eye.)

Years the fancy scotch Matt and his dad enjoyed aged in a fancy barrel: 30

(No comment, beyond the fact that I was told in no uncertain terms not to mix this whiskey with ginger ale, Coke Zero, or anything else... or really, just don't touch it at all, because you don't appreciate its wonderousness.)

Scrapbook pages completed by yours truly: 10

I had an awesome day. Matt and I had about six hours of sleep between the ball dropping and the kids rising, drank mimosas with the leftover champagne, made scrambled eggs, and the girls played together without parental involvement such that I was able to scrapbook our self-taken family photo shoot, Thanksgiving, and 24 days of Daily December. Matt's parents joined us for a mid-afternoon dinner, helping us eat the many meats and witnessing the gymnastic black eye. We all enjoyed such a relaxed, wonderful day doing things we enjoy in one another's company. I barely remember that yesterday was a work day and that tomorrow is not Sunday (lazy family days at home register as Saturday in my mind, so I end up all confused!). We may get snow overnight, though, so if day care is closed, tomorrow may be much of the same. If so, I may get to scrapbook the first through seventh days of Christmas, AKA Daily December 25-31. 

Hope 2014 treats you all right. Many blessings from Team Kelley.


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